Thursday, August 29, 2013

USDOT Strategic Plan Update

Every once in a while the Fed's take out the ol' USDOT (that's the United States Department of Transportation) Strategic Plan, blow off the dust and work on updating the nation's transportation policy and plans. It can sound kinda boring and wonky. I get it. However, they are asking for your input. Yes you, reading the blog from your big comfy couch, on the desktop at the office or at a coffee shop.

You don't have to be a bike lover or a bike rider. Maybe you get around by bus or car. And we all walk somewhere, whether it's from the parking lot to the store or from our house to work. We all move around our communities in various ways on a daily basis.

The 2012 - 2016 plan was called Transportation for a New Generation. Pretty exciting stuff for a national policy. The 2014 - 2018 Strategic Plan is in draft form, and has yet to be named. Can you feel the anticipation?

Screen capture of the DOT Strategic Plan Online Dialogue website
USDOT wants YOU to particate.

Joking aside, take some time to review, ponder and share your input. Sometimes being hundreds of miles away from the nation's capital, it can be easy to forget or be uninvolved with the shaping of a nation. However, here's a chance to make an impact. Last Thanksgiving SCDOT started to update our state Multimodal Transportation Plan. I encouraged folks to get involved and stay connected to things happening at the state level. As SCDOT shapes what happens in your local community (Clemson, Seneca, Anderson, Easley), USDOT shapes the programs and funding available to the state level DOTs. Here's another opportunity to have a stake in the game and make your opinions, daily habits and ideas about what kind of roads, bike lanes, sidewalks and other facilities the nation should invest in. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Working with Public Works

I love riding my bike, and many times that includes riding in the shoulder. I've had to dodge all kind of debris, ranging from small pebbles to bricks, road kill (yuck) and even a the random pillow from to time. While riding around the random road junk is not a difficult maneuver in and of itself, adding in a lane of moving traffic into the mix can make things difficult.

On top of that difficulty can be frustration when you pass the same gunk for days and sometimes weeks on end. What's the best way to address this when getting off your bike and removing the stuff yourself is not an option? Contacting the local Public Works department

Many cities have a Public Works department that are in charge of street maintenance. This crew fixes potholes, helps with downed trees after storms and whose responsibilities are making sure things are running smoothly on the streets. They have an important, sometimes overlooked job of making sure that the streets and sidewalks are in working order so that folks can move around without problems or delays.

Some communities officially include reporting a bikeway maintenance or issue request as part of the mix of things that Public Works department takes on. In the City of Madison, Wisconsin, where I spent several years before moving to the South, there's a website that's used to report bikeway repairs. If you live in a community that has this kind of resource, report an issue the next time you encounter it and check out the response time. If there's not a system in place, call or email the local Public Works Director to let them know the issue. If the opportunity arises, see if setting up an electronic bikeway maintenance reporting website is a possibility. Chances are if you encounter a problem on a recent ride, someone else has dealt with the same thing.

I recently contacted the City of Clemson to ask them to consider street sweeping after a rain storm to address all the random sand, dirt, pebbles and things that had piled up in the shoulder. They did respond to my email, however, they said that the route I was on was a Department of Transportation road, and therefore, they weren't in the position to address it. Something about taking pride in the community, but it basically wasn't there role to stay on top of these kinds of things. (Another cyclist I knew reported things a few times, and got the same response.) Hmmm. Well, at least they are on notice that people on bikes are out riding and notifying them when issues arise. I suppose they'll have to work on the priority of addressing bike route issues, budgets and good PR.

After a ride, if there were some area that needed cleaning up, consider contacting the local Public Works department. Work with them to build bridges and help them understand the needs of the bike-riding community.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Building Bikeways: Behind the Scenes

There have been some exciting developments on the Clemson University campus this August. A year in the planning, just in time for the fall semester to start, there will be a number of bicycle improvements that can be seen and experienced on the campus. When you get a chance to stop by - whether for class, over a football weekend or during homecoming - consider bringing your bike to check out the latest:

Bike Repair Station.  Requested by the students, for the students and of the students, a Dero Fix-It bike repair station has landed near a couple of the residence halls on Fort Hill Street. It's about 5 ft tall, brown and a savvy facility in which students can use to do some basic repairs and pump their bike tires with air. There's a nifty QR code that can be scanned for "how-to" video viewing on a smart phone. The pump is also designed to be used with the different kind of (tube) valves.

Bike repair station at Clemson University.

Shared Roadways.  A number of campus roads are marked to designated preferred bike routes on campus. These routes are marked by a "sharrow," (see photo below), also known as a shared road marking. They are meant to alert folks driving that they should expect (and respect!) that bikes may be on this route. They also are meant to indicate to those on bikes that 1) this is a preferred bike route, and 2) ride here - not on the sidewalk. As bikes are on the roads, they are expected to stop at stop signs, gives peds the right of way, stop at stop lights, etc. Look for these fun symbols around the campus!

East Beach Road, shared roadway.

Bike Lanes.  Another road will be marked with a bike lane. A portion of Cherry Road, one of the major roads through the campus, now has a bike lane on it. In addition to the bike lane that was added last summer, the number of bikeways on campus has more than doubled! Bikes should ride in the bike lane, and (again) follow the basic rules of the road.

Adding bike lanes to Cherry Road. A work in progress.

There have been some improvements on campus. With the support of students, faculty and staff in the coming years, the bike-friendly culture is sure to grow.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Bicycle-Related Careers

Ever thought about a career that relates to bicycles, but don't know where to look or get started? Some jobs require a college degree or post-graduate education while others are more about having "handy" technical skills. There are many different ways to make a living supporting bicycle riding in your local community! The list below contains just some of the different bike-related jobs people hold.

Bicycle Mechanic.  Love taking things apart...and then (successfully) putting them back together? A good bike mechanic is critical to have in the local community - and more than one! Having a couple of reliable places to get your bi-annual tune-up or to get work done can be a huge asset. If you enjoy making a fine-tuned machines whirl, consider this growing field.

Bike mechanic at work.

Sales Associate.  Enjoy working with people and helping them find what they need? Then working at a bike shop or speciality store may be for you. Everyone likes a honest, straight-forward salesperson, and working to help someone find their ideal bike can be life-changing experience. People are looking for that bicycle that will fit their riding needs, habits and aspirations. Being the person that can identify the bicycle that is the"right fit" for someone else is empowering someone to have fun, be independent and engage in a healthy lifestyle.

Bicycle Designer.  For those who are like to draw, create or fabricate, consider a career in designing bicycles. Bikes today range from the mundane and manufactured to the wild and wonderful. Some folks are looking for a unique ride that fits their needs or has them standing out in a crowd. Also consider that some people will pay big bucks to have a taylor-made bike. Developing a signature style and well-made product is a realistic, lucrative, growing field.

Urban/Bicycle Planner.  As a "big-picture" thinker, planners are charged with consider the opportunities, challenges, issues and threats as they work on master plans that are the living document that guides future decisions and developments. By bringing stakeholders together, engaging the public, maneuvering within (or dodging around) the politics of a community and (perhaps most importantly) reviewing and analyzing the data, big plans are created to inspire communities to make dreams a reality. The development of a bikeway network that includes a linked system of bike lanes, shared roadways, cycle tracks and paths more than likely came from a community master bike, pedestrian or recreation plan. (Bikeway developments in Easley, Greenville, Rock Hill and Clemson University are a result of master plans.) As a planner, I enjoy bringing people together to address an identified need to problem-solve. If these kinds of thing sound interesting, consider a career in planning.

Planners and Landscape Architects at work.

Landscape Architect.  Another outlet for the creative type is a career in landscape architecture. Taking the ideas of the plan, landscape architects give shape, form and unique characteristics to specific locations identified in master planning documents. Is there a particular park that you just love, a public space or maybe a path that speaks to you? These places didn't just happen, but were the result of a designer's tireless efforts. Planners and Landscape Architects generally work together - the yin and yang, many times - of bikeway planning.

Civil or Traffic Engineer.  Interested in the technical "nuts and bolts" of road or bikeway design speculations? Want to make great networks come to life by focusing on the technical details? If you are a data driven, mathematical mind-ed individual, a career in civil engineering might be for you. While the planners take a look at the big picture and the landscape architects design the areas to create inviting, special places, "civies" as they are also known work on making the plans pop to life, making the jump from idea to specifics. Detail-oriented, engineers are taught the specifics on transportation (aka road, bike and pathway) network design. Working for consulting firms or State Departments of Transportation, having a strong knowledge base in bikeway development is important for an engineer to support the evolving needs of society's transportation culture.

Restaurant Owner/Grocery Store/Small Business.  Opening up a restaurant, grocery store or other small businesses near a bike path or along a bike route will surely get some pedal traffic. Setting up a few tables and chairs outside along with adding bike racks near-by will encourage a bike-friendly ambience. Specialize is merchandise that's easy to carry on a bike. Entice bike-traffic by joining Bicycle Benefits. Advertise with local bike-clubs or a bike shops or organize a bike ride where your business is a destination, and the potential for steady clientele is highly likely.

This list is meant to be just a sampling of bicycle-related careers, but it should give you a good idea on some different avenues to explore. For more information on any of these fields consider reaching out to a local professional in one of these fields for more information. (For any potential planners out there, I'd love to answer any questions you may have!)